In the fight against the dreaded Corona Virus pandemic, lockdown has become a necessity, cutting across languages, geographies, socio-economic strata. And yet, there’s a flip side to it – a threat being faced by an increasing number from a demographic group that roughly comprises one-half of the world’s population – Women!
The threat has been an age-old one, but now exacerbated by the side-effects of lockdown. It’s called domestic violence. And as people fly off the handle under the stress of lockdown and fear of the unknown (the pandemic!), the worrying incidence of domestic violence is rapidly on the rise, the world over.
Statistics are bearing this out on a global scale… During the month of February, Hubei province in Wuhan (the epicentre of the Corona Virus) reported a tripling in domestic violence cases. Brazil’s state-run shelters are experiencing a 40-50% rise in appeals from women in distress under similar circumstances. And it isn’t any better in the so-called developed and wealthy world. That most loved city of Paris has seen a 36% spike; the overall French average itself at a worrying +30%, with the rest of Europe ranging between an increase of 20-30%.
In India, it’s an eerily different story, with the otherwise busy hotlines gone silent – pointing to the distressing fact that the 24×7 presence of the perpetrator at home, is now making it impossible for victims to report brutalities inflicted upon them.
All of these distressing facts prompted Gaali-Free India to examine the issue and trace its origins. Admittedly, while there can never be one single cause, the reality is that domestic violence is often an off-shoot of the perpetrator being inherently abusive by nature. Or, more specifically, by language. A warped sense of entitlement that gives them a misplaced feeling of having some God-given right to take out their anger on soft targets – in this case, women.
Topical as always, Gaali-Free India’s latest campaign trained the spotlight on domestic violence and its rising incidence in the time of lockdown. To be sure, the campaign is not against lockdown; rather, one of its unfortunate side-effects.
It uses now-universally objects like a mask and gloves to creatively unravel its narrative. A narrative succinctly captured by its solitary line ‘If only we could see what lies beneath’. Coupled with its emotional imagery of battered woman, the campaign immediately draws attention to the dangers of the times we live in.
Vandana Sethhi, entrepreneur, communications expert and the architect behind the Gaali-Free India movement, explains the thinking behind the campaign: “The objective of the campaign is not creativity, but awareness – as is the case with every Gaali-Free campaign. Awareness from several perspectives… For perpetrators, so that they may begin to check their baser instincts and thus course-correct; for victims, that they may stand up for themselves and report the same; and, as importantly, for third parties (neighbours, relatives, etc), that they may step in and come to the aid of such hapless victims.”
The objective and timing of the campaign are both laudable and of huge service to society – especially the silent victims. The campaign tugs at one’s heart-strings, conscience and responsibility towards society. As a movement, Gaali-Free India is committed towards stamping out the menace of verbal (and, by extension, other forms of) abuse. It’s a commitment to return India to its original ethos of being a peace-loving, respectful and caring society. Its predication lies in the reality that too many people in too many places and situations are freely using abusive words, thereby reducing the sanctity of society and community.
Gaali-Free India finds an excellent vehicle in social media. Through this, it can very effectively reach out primarily to the younger audience – especially those for whom verbal abuse has become a way of life; and equally to those still at an impressionable and peer-pressure stage, who can be conscientized towards correcting themselves and work towards becoming nicer human beings.
Ms Sethhi adds: “While this campaign seems targeted at perpetrators, there is a much wider audience – in fact, anyone and everyone! As mentioned, victims and third parties, from a primary standpoint. But more broadly, this latest campaign is part of an ongoing effort to continuously engage with youngsters and remind them of their responsibility towards making our world a better place.”
More power to Gaali-Free India. And more power to women who find themselves unfortunate victims of domestic abuse. Together, let’s pledge our commitment to a better world.